World Juniors: 5 takeaways from Canada's win over Czechia

Owen Power dominated in Canada's win over Czechia in the opening game of the World Juniors. (Getty)
Owen Power dominated in Canada's win over Czechia in the opening game of the World Juniors. (Getty)

After a six-goal first period where both Canada and Czechia looked shaky, the host team found its footing and marched to a 6-3 victory.

Canada’s Owen Power notched a hat-trick, while Czechia came unravelled during a one-minute sequence, drawing three minor penalties while its opponent feasted to take an insurmountable lead.

Here’s what you need to know from Canada’s opening win over Czechia.

No one man should have all that Power

More like Owen Power-play. Stop booing me, let’s get into the takeaways!

Power, selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres in last summer’s draft, was the best player on the ice by a wide margin, notching a hat-trick for Canada. Before he registered on the scoresheet, Power and teammate Mason McTavish (more on him below) were able to string cross-ice passes at their own leisure, controlling zone entries and offensive-zone sequences with their superb strength and puck control.

Power, in particular, looked like he was merely gliding out there and had ample time to make every decision he wanted.

During a frantic first period where Canada trailed 3-1, Power’s first goal was equal-parts tremendous luck and amazing skill.

During a wild scramble in front of the net, Canada’s Cole Perfetti was pushed into Czechia goaltender Jakub Malek. Malek was slow to get to his feet, and as the puck circled through the offensive zone, Power had a clean shooting lane, albeit from an extremely difficult angle. With Malek staggering to get up, Power placed an inch-perfect wrist shot under the bar to cut the deficit to 3-2.

There is an element of fortune here, as Perfetti could’ve been called for goaltender interference, but few players in the world could get that shot off with such ease.

Czechia self-destructed midway through the second period and Power capitalized. While attempting to kill off Canada’s first power play of the game, Czechia captain Jan Mysak tripped Canada’s Kent Johnson, but the play continued as the Canadians still held possession. After the play ended, a frustrated Czechia defenceman Michal Hradek cross-checked Johnson, giving Canada an extended 5-on-3.

Power capitalized 30 seconds into the 5-on-3, with a one-timer that looked effortless, taking a feed from Perfetti and depositing it past an outstretched Malek. This may be an optical illusion, but it didn’t look like Power put his entire body weight into the shot and still ripped it for the game-winning goal.

Showing off his ability to anticipate the play, Power read an exhausted Czechia defence to perfection to complete the hat-trick. McTavish whacked away at two chances in front of the net, and Power was left unmarked, sweeping in to tuck away a rebound for his third goal of the game and give Canada a 5-3 lead.

It’s only fitting that Power was able to score three goals in three different ways. He couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament.

Mason McTavish got every look he wanted

McTavish spent nine games with the Anaheim Ducks this season and his proximity to the NHL was apparent throughout the game.

He got every look he wanted, especially during the first period, and opened the scoring on a spectacular individual effort. After McTavish flubbed a chance in front of the net, he got his own rebound, skated a whole circle around the offensive zone, catching Czechia’s Jan Mysak and Pavel Novak flat-footed, before roofing a wrister past Jan Malek for a 1-0 lead.

From a cynical vantage point, you could easily point out Czechia’s passive defending helped McTavish quite a bit, but he showed tremendous edge work and mastery of the offensive zone on his first goal, added a primary assist on Power’s third goal and was arguably Canada’s best forward.

If this is a 19-year-old’s tournament, McTavish showed why he’s pro-ready and could be expected to play an even larger role for Canada as the tournament progresses.

Dylan Garand may get benched for Sebastian Cossa

A requisite disclaimer: you have to remember that these players are just teenagers. We don’t encourage bullying or harassment in any form. With that said, we have to offer a critique here: Canada may be better off starting Sebastian Cossa over Dylan Garand between the pipes for the duration of the competition.

Garand was a mildly surprising choice to get the nod over Cossa, and head coach Dave Cameron said that he’d evaluate the position on a game-by-game basis. Cameron also insinuated that Garand wouldn’t be benched unless he played poorly.

Though Canada found its rhythm as the game went on, Garand wasn’t particularly good during the first period — two of the three goals he allowed should’ve been saves — and if the idea of a goaltender is to give his team a chance to win, he certainly didn’t improve Canada’s fortunes.

We’re not here to bully Garand. But based on tonight’s performance, Cossa should get the start on Tuesday against Austria, although it’s not expected to give Canada much of a test.

Bedard moves into top-six role

Sixteen-year-old wunderkind Connor Bedard is being asked to earn every shift, and he certainly furthered Dave Cameron’s trust on Sunday.

Bedard played sparingly during the opening minutes of the game, but after showing his innate ability to receive outlet passes, and distribute the puck with fluidity that some NHL players don’t possess, he was placed into a top-six role.

Bedard was added to a scoring line alongside Shane Wright and Cole Perfetti and brought a level of dynamism that was sorely lacking. This kid’s ability to see the ice is supernatural, and he was rewarded with more ice time after starting a tic-tac-toe sequence with Perfetti and Donovan Sebrango, which led to Canada’s game-tying goal.

I wrote before the tournament that Bedard could easily win tournament MVP. Power and McTavish may be in pole position after Sunday’s 6-3 win. You could argue that this was a relatively average game for Bedard too, as he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary from his regular pre-tournament performances — a scary thought for the rest of the competition.

Perhaps Bedard was paying attention to his rival Matvei Michkov, his 2023-eligible cohort who scored two goals and was Russia’s best player in a 6-3 loss to Sweden. Perhaps he wasn’t paying attention to Michkov at all.

What’s clear is that Bedard has earned every shift that he's gotten, and it’ll be to Canada’s benefit if he’s entrenched on a line with Wright and Perfetti.

A note of solidarity with the women’s hockey community

This isn’t directly related to Sunday’s game, but in many ways, it’s the most pressing issue in hockey at the moment.

So I’d like to use this space on behalf of my colleagues and I to show solidarity with the women’s hockey community after the IIHF cancelled the upcoming World U-18 tournament, under the guise of player safety. This simply isn’t about player safety, especially as the men’s world juniors medal round continues into January.

Some will try to argue — perhaps in good faith, but missing the point — that it’s about revenue generation, that the men’s tournament continues because it produces profits for the host governing body (Hockey Canada, in this case) and its respective partners. But that’s not quite it, either.

There is an appetite for women’s hockey and there needs to be an impetus for governing bodies and their partners to create a space for women to play, both due to the real viewing interest that exists and out of fairness. This isn’t about moral grandstanding or virtual signalling, but it’s logically impossible to come to the conclusion that it’s safe enough for the men’s tournament to march onward, business as usual, while the women’s tournament is cancelled due to an 'abundance of caution' or whatever the aphorism of the week is.

We stand in solidarity with the women’s hockey community and urge the IIHF, along with Hockey Canada, to build a real contingency plan for future women’s events.

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